Epilog Helix 24

From Idea Shop Wiki
Epilog Laser in the Idea Shop Prototyping Lab

The Epilog Laser is a CNC laser cutter that is capable of cutting, rastering, and etching a variety of materials in two dimensions (along the X-Y plane). The Epilog uses color mapped vector files to cut material up to 1/4" (5mm) thick.

Steps to use the laser:

  1. Prepare your file using one of our our templates
  2. Send your file to the laser from the Assembly Space
  3. Add your name to the queue
  4. Use the computer in the Maker Space to cut your file.

Note: Use of the laser is first come, first served. You must first send your file to the laser cutter (prepared using our template) to be added to the queue. When there is an active queue, users have up to one hour to cut their job. Any jobs longer than one hour will be stopped after 60 minutes and the user added anew to the end of the queue.

General Stats:
Material : Acrylic, Wood, Foam Core, MDF, ABS (in limited quantities), Paper, Cardboard, Leather. (See Laser Cutter Materials for permitted/prohibited materials.)
Maximum Part Size : 457.2mm x 609.6mm (18in x 24in)
Maximum Material Thickness for Through Cuts : 1/4in

  • Quickly cuts through a variety of materials
  • Uses AutoCAD or other vector file formats for true to size accuracy .
  • Good for creating quick prototypes out of different materials
  • Restricted in size to 18" x 24" bed
  • Restricted to cutting 2D geometries
  • Long Queues

1. Preparing Your File

Preparing a File in AutoCAD

Main Article : Preparing a Laser File in AutoCAD

All computers in the Assembly Space have AutoCad installed and are pre-loaded with our template. This template has a designated area the size of the laser bed, as well as layers for different laser settings, such as cut first (for interiors), cut last, raster, score shallow, and score deep. File type is .dwg, but .dxf files may be imported.

For assistance or tips with preparing your file, don't hesitate to ask Idea Shop staff, who will be happy to help you. Refer to the Preparing a Laser File in AutoCAD for more detailed instructions.

Preparing a File in Illustrator

Main Article : Preparing a Laser File in Illustrator

Coming soon!

2. Sending Your File to The Laser

How your print screen should look before sending a file to the laser

1. Select the “Print” button from the top left corner.

2. Make sure the “Epilog Laser/Engraver” is the selected printer.

3. Change any other settings so that the that the print screen matches the picture to the right.

4. Click the “Select Window” button to select whichever 18”x24” rectangle contains your part.
 a. Plot Area > “Window<”
 b. You will be brought back to the drawing screen.
 c. Select the top left corner and the bottom right corner of the rectangle itself. Do not simply select an arbitrary area containing your part.

5. Make sure the plot scale ratio is set to 1:1
 a. Plot scale > Scale:

6. Select “Preview…” and make sure everything including the layer colors looks correct.

7. Click “OK” to send your file to the laser queue.

3. Laser Queue

Use of the laser is on a first come, first served basis, reflected in the queue system. Once you've sent your file to the laser, notify a staff member to be added to the queue. The queue is a list of names in purple ink on a white board next to the laser cutter.

  • Only Idea Shop staff may edit the queue.
  • Users are added to the queue only after their files have been color mapped and plotted to the laser.
  • Only one team member from a project may be in the queue at any time.
  • If there is a queue, users have up to one hour of laser time. If after one hour the a job remains incomplete, users will be asked to stop their job and then be added to the end of the queue. If there is no queue, users can take as long as they need!
  • If you are not present when your name is called you will be removed from the queue.
  • The queue resets everyday.

4. Using the Epilog Laser Cutter

Preparing the Laser

Once your file is sent to the laser computer in the Maker Space, ask a staff member to walk over to the computer with you to begin cutting. Place your material into the laser bed. Make sure the material you are attempting to cut is okay to cut on the laser. See the Materials section for clarification. If you are using acrylic, peel off one side of the protective paper.

The Epilog Job Manager application should be opened on the computer in order to run a job. Under the jobs tab select the job you want to print. Once a job is selected, a screen detailing the specifics of the job will be shown. From here, select the material you will be cutting from the material tab in the bottom left corner of the screen. Usually this is all that needs to be done for an average job: if there are any concerns, see the section "Prepping a File before Cutting" for more information. If the material you are cutting is not listed enter the settings under the colors tab. If you are not sure what settings to use ask a staff member. The laser must then be manually focused.

Preparing a File in Epilog Job Manager

Home Screen View of Laser Computer

Before cutting, find the file previously sent to the laser on the home screen of the Epilog Job Manager application found on the computer next to the laser cutter. The most recent file will appear at the top of the home page with the name of the file appearing along with a small scale picture of the cut. This screen is pictured to the right, labeled "Home Screen View of Laser Computer" where the most recent file is highlighted at the top. Select the "Material Settings" Tab in the top left corner of the screen. A preview of this page appears on the right labeled "Material Settings Preview Screen". Select the correct material (Acrylic, MDF, Wood, etc...) from the left column and then choose the width of the material being cut. This will set the recommended speed and power.

Material Settings Preview Screen

Return to the "Jobs" tab and select the file to be cut and double click to review and modify settings. This screen will appear under "Job Information" and is pictured to the right and labeled "Review and Modify Laser Cutting Settings on "Job Information" Screen. Note the Speed and Power settings for the file and adjust only in special cases as your previous material selection should have provided accurate power and speed settings.

Review and Modify Laser Cutting Settings on "Job Information" Screen

Select the "Preview" tab on the "Job Information" screen to see a scaled image of the file. Check that this is correct.

Preview Screen Example

Select the "Information" tab to return to the "Job Information" screen. The file should be ready to cut. Select the print button in the bottom left corner of the "Job Information" screen and the file will be sent to the laser. Confirm this by viewing the file name scrolling across the screen of the laser before beginning the cut.

Manually Focusing the Laser

Main Article : Focusing the Laser

The Epilog Laser Cutter automatically focuses itself depending on the material being used. For extremely precise cuts, it may be safest to manually focus the laser. To manually focus, use the triangular focus tool stored near the machine and press the "Focus" button on the cutter. Place the tool on the laser and use the arrow buttons to raise the bed until the tool and material just barely touch. Once you are satisfied with this, remove the tool and make sure that auto-focus is disabled in the Epilog Job Manager (and resend your file to the cutter if necessary). Then press "Go" to begin your cut!

Cutting Your Material

Before cutting the part you sent to the laser cutter, make sure the air compressor is turned on in order to reduce the amount of fumes and smoke coming from the material as it is cut. You should see the name of your job on the screen of the laser cut. Do not press go until the data LED has stopped blinking, if it is still blinking this means the laser is still receiving data on your file from the computer. Once you are ready, press the green go button and the laser will begin to cut your part. While the laser is cutting, the door of the laser must remain closed, otherwise the job will be stopped. If at any time you want to pause the job, press the red stop button. Press the green go button to resume the job. If you want to end the job, press the reset button. Once a job has finished, the laser will home and beep, then it is safe to remove the material. IF the laser has not cut all the way through the material, depending on the material, it may be easier to cut it out with an x-acto knife. If you wish to try to use the laser to cut it out, place the material back in the bed as close to the original position as you can, and run the job again. If before a job you are confident the laser will not cut all the way through on the first pass, set the material in the Epilog program to be thicker than the material you are actually cutting.

Fire Safety

When using the laser cutter, a small flame that follows the laser is always to be expected. However, if the flame remains after the laser has moved on and begins to grow in size, users should take steps to contain and extinguish the fire.

  • Attempt to extinguish the fire by snuffing it out with the welding blanket
  • If fire cannot be extinguished with the welding blanket alone, progress to the dry CO2 fire extinguishers
  • If the fire cannot be contained by the use of the CO2 extinguishers, progress to the wet chemical extinguisher located in the wall behind the glass.

Machine Proficiency

In order for an individual to advance in machine proficiency they must demonstrate ability to perform certain actions or tasks. All levels include abilities and concepts from lower levels.

This section is primarily for student workers.

Troubleshooting info and more can be found on the Epilog website: http://support.epiloglaser.com/knowledgec.aspx?cid=8205

Adjusting table level: http://support.epiloglaser.com/article/8205/11959/

Aligning the laser beam: http://supportsystem.livehelpnow.net/article/8205/12189/

Level 0

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Plotting a prepared AutoCAD vector / hatch raster file to Epilog Job Manager.
  • Selecting the correct material in Epilog Job Manager.
  • Determining whether manual or auto focus should be used.
  • Determining whether the exhaust fan and air assist compressor are operating.
  • Locating the fire retardant cloth and fire extinguisher.

Individual understands the concepts:

  • What materials are unsafe to cut or engrave on the laser.
  • Adjusting power and speed settings to cut slightly different material.
  • Application of cut first versus cut last and scoring versus rastering.

Level 1

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Preparing a vector / hatch raster AutoCAD file for laser cutting.
  • Manually focusing the laser.
  • Identifying materials that are safe to cut / engrave.
  • Clean the accessible mirrors and lens.
  • Recovering from an auto focus bed crash.
  • Replacing and cleaning the laser bed.
  • Adjust power and speed settings to cut slightly different material.
  • Switching the job between combined, vector only, and raster only.

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Engraving on anodized metals.
  • Creating hinged parts on the laser.
  • Knowing when it is safe and applicable to turn off air assist.
  • Engraving images.
  • Optimizing laser files to minimize wasted material and job time.
  • Selecting an appropriate laser bed.

Level 2

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Realigning and resuming a moved part using visible red laser alignment.
  • Replacing and recalibrating the auto focus.
  • Cleaning and lubricating guide rails and pulleys.
  • Changing the XY focus location.
  • Making jigs to engrave irregularly shaped items.

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Laser Cutting Kerf.
  • Using chemical agents to engrave on metal.
  • Understanding and identifying the effects of an un-level bed.
  • Knowing whether to change material settings or rerun a job which is not cutting through.
  • Using additive layering to create 3D models

Level 3

Individual has demonstrated they are capable of:

  • Extinguishing a fire.
  • Leveling the laser bed.
  • Focusing the laser mirrors.
  • Creating new material settings.
  • Ability to edit and prepare an image for optimal engraving.

Individual understands the concepts:

  • Impact of laser frequency.
  • Bottom-Up versus Top-Down engraving benefits.
  • Differentiation of image dithering algorithms.
  • Using additive layering to creating models with moving parts.


Epilog Laser in the Idea Shop Maker Space